MANILA, Philippines – Instead of shifting its attention to the infrastructure development of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines should instead focusing on addressing its own needs, said ports and casino tycoon Enrique Razon Jr.
"Although [the] forum is [on] ASEAN, I would like to focus on the Philippines. To be blunt, I am not that concerned about the others. I more concerned about the Philippines because we have a lot of catching up to do," Razon said in the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Pasay City on Monday, November 13.
According to the 2017-2018 competitiveness report of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Philippines' overall infrastructure lags behind those of its Southeast Asian neighbors. (READ: $60 billion a year needed to address ASEAN infrastructure gap – ADB)
"Once and for all, we (the Philippines) really have to focus and invest in our own infrastructure. ASEAN is good – one week every year, you have this big meeting; but for the other 51 weeks, nobody does anything about it, they concentrate on their own," said Razon, one of the Philippines' richest men.
The Philippines was ranked 97th out of 137 nations in the WEF report for 2017-2018. (READ: Which ASEAN economy has the most developed infrastructure?)
In ASEAN, the Philippines' overall infrastructure score was just above Laos and Cambodia. The WEF report showed the Philippines scoring lowest in ASEAN in terms of quality of roads and air transport infrastructure.
"We got to that point of our own doing and only us can take us out from that," Razon said.
Filling the infrastructure gap in the Philippines is important to sustain its economic growth, added the chairman of International Container Terminal Services Incorporated (ICTSI) and Bloomberry Resorts Corporation.
"We have to increase capacity [through infrastructure] so as not to strangle economic growth," he added. (READ: Duterte administration details 'ambitious' infra plan)
Razon, AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes, and Ayala Corporation chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala all agreed that public-private partnerships (PPPs) are key to an effective infrastructure program.
The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, however, has veered away from the PPP route, saying some previous PPP deals were hounded by delays.
"Transparency is a tricky thing. What’s more important is to get things done," Razon said. – Rappler.com